Thursday, June 11, 2015

Reading To The Beast

Ready for another story?  Cool, today we ramble about The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey, the unofficial first book in the Elemental Masters Series.  This book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and works pretty well.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Rosalind Hawkins, known as Rose to her friends and family is facing a crisis.  She is a scholar in the 1900's where it was still unseemly for females to do much other then marry, or in dire circumstances be a maid, shop girl or governess.  Unfortunately for Rose she is in just such dire circumstances after her father dies leaving her penniless.  A mysterious proposition appears for a job in San Francisco that just happens to detail her exact qualifications.  Rose packs her meager belongings and heads out to her new job.  She is surprised by the sheer luxury of the position and is just a wee bit uneasy when it turns out the "governess" position is actually a position reading through a speaking tube to a man she has never seen.  Turns out Jason Cameron, the man who hired her has had an "accident" that has left him horribly disfigured and housebound.  What he doesn't tell Rose is that he is an Elemental Master of Fire and that one of his experiments went horribly wrong and he is now stuck in a body that is half wolf and half man.  Jason has dismissed all of his human servants, depending solely on his elemental Salamanders to keep his vast house in order.  The only other human Jason has contact with is the lazy and devious Paul DuMond who is supposed to be acting as Jason's apprentice, but is to lazy to apply himself to the discipline needed to truly become a Master.  After much back and forth Rose and Jason find each others company to be mutually pleasing, adding much to their nightly reading sessions.  Rose quickly discovers the world of Magyk and after a bit of mulling it over decides to accept it.  A mishap brings rose to Jason's rooms where she discovers his state, and surprises him by handling it with more composure then expected.  Rose also discovers her own Magyk, the element of Air and command of the Sylphs which compliments Jason's own Magyk.  Meanwhile DuMond has been in cahoots with Jason's rival, the Fire Master Simon Beltaire.  Simon wants nothing more then to destroy Jason, and by promising DuMond an easier (and more destructive) way to become a Master, enlists his help.  To this end DuMond goes to try and kidnap Rose to use in one of his nasty spells.  Rose is rescued when Jason comes to her aid in full beast mode and rips DuMonds throat out.  This is the first time Rose has seen him act in such a pure beast like manner and is very disturbed.  Recognizing this, Jason sends her to the city on a holiday that had already been planned to give her some space.  Rose is approached by Simon to try and enlist her to his side, but to no avail.  As Rose contemplates her future with Jason, a great earthquake happens and Rose does what she can to help.  Simon again approaches her and tries to force her to go with him when Jason again appears.  Using the combination of Jason's Fire and Rose's Air they finally defeat the evil Fire Master.  They head back to Jason's manor and decide to marry, even if they never find a cure for Jason't half wold state.  Everybody good lives mostly happily ever after and we get to move on to the next book.
I liked this book.  I liked it for several reasons.  The best of course is that it is another retelling of one of my favorite stories, and we all know how I love a good retelling.  This is a good retelling as in it followed all the basic points of the original story, girl left penniless, beastly, yet eventually kind hearted well of man, pride, looks, lessons, even the roses.  I really liked Rose as a main character because she was super bookish, a bit independent, but not super girl.  She defiantly needed help in some of the more physical aspects of this story (though she was by no means delicate.)  and she very much enjoyed pretty clothes.  I liked the mix of intelligence, femininity, stubbornness, and sheer love of books that was mixed into this character.  Jason was pretty cool, he has an arrogance about him that keeps him from being to perfect and is happily willing to admit a female as being at a minimum his equal in all things intellectual.  The setting was pretty neat.  This time period, especially on the American West Coast is one of massive change and opportunities which makes it the perfect place to make a story like this plausible.  There were a few things that were not my favorite.  Jason ALWAYS has a way to see Rose and uses this ability constantly, with out her permission, even after they come to their understandings.  As convenient a of a plot device that this is, it kind of creeps me out a bit.  I know if somebody was constantly observing me, and using that information to their advantage with out my knowledge I would be livid.  If I found out about it later, especially after I had fallen in love with somebody, bad bad things would happen.  I also found some of the introspective phrases (of which there were many) to be a bit over the top and more tell me instead of show me in nature.  There were a lot of "reminiscing" thoughts that were just there to explain stuff...which felt forced.  That being said, one of my complaints in the last Elemental Masters book I read was a lack of understanding of how the Magyk worked and this cleared up a tiny bit of that, so that was good.  Overall I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anybody who like fairy tale retellings, Magyk, and smart people.  I give it 7 out of 10 herb packets and can't wait to read the next one.
What is your favorite retelling?  What Element would you control?  How much do I love bookish heroines?

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